An estimated one out of five adults in the U.S. suffers with mental illness. Some 11 million adults reported an unmet need for mental health care in the past year, a situation no doubt made worse by the recent recession and higher-than-normal unemployment.
The health reform law has specific provisions covering mental health and substance use conditions, as well as general provisions to benefit those in need of behavioral health services. For example, the expansion of Medicaid holds the potential to provide treatment to millions with substance use or mental health disorders who might not otherwise have gotten this care.
But Medicaid already finances more than half of mental health care in the U.S. While addressing unmet needs, the reform law provisions raise new challenges. Given their budgetary constraints, will states be able to expand capacity to meet the demands of increased enrollment? Will sacrifices in other benefits and services be needed in order to provide mental health parity? Will the health professional workforce be large enough to serve those in need of care? Are innovative programs that integrate behavioral and physical health showing promise, and if so, can they be scaled up in time to meet the need? What role will health information technology play and will privacy issues be a barrier to its use in mental health care?
To address these questions and more, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Centene Corporation sponsored a May 4 briefing. Speakers were: John O’Brien, of the Disabled and Elderly Health Programs Group in the Center for Medicaid, CHIP, and Survey & Certification at the CMS; Joseph Parks, Missouri Department of Mental Health; Gloria Wilder, Core Health, which assists organizations and providers in helping underserved populations; and Sam Donaldson, president and CEO of Cenpatico, an accredited managed behavioral health care organization active in 10 states. Ed Howard and Deanna Okrent of the Alliance co-moderated.
Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)